Now that we’ve said goodbye to all of the prominent members of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster from a year ago, it’s time to introduce ourselves to the new blood. Many of them, of course, are draft picks, but the team also ended up picking up numerous players via free agency, the majority of whom we’ll likely be seeing in-season at some point.
Roster turnover is an inevitability in the NFL, but the 2021 season marked greater change than normal. Some of those adjustments will be accounted for internally, but it will also require the supplementing of a number of new components, which we’ll be reintroducing ourselves to over the course of this series.
Also included within that first group of free agent signings from back in March was the man who was, at the time, the Steelers’ most notable pickup—which says a lot about how notable their pickups were. They signed journeyman offensive tackle Joe Haeg to a two-year, $4 million deal in order to fill out their depth.
Haeg did start 29 games over the course of his first two seasons, playing for the Indianapolis Colts after they drafted him in the fifth round out of North Dakota St. That accounts for the vast majority of his playing time. He would make another six starts in his third season, still with the Colts.
He spent last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he would earn a Super Bowl ring with Tom Brady, Bruce Arians, and company. There, he filled the niche role of tackle-eligible tight end, technically ‘starting’ three games and logging 127 total offensive snaps.
As for his place with the Steelers, it may be the same here, but the preseason will determine that. His ability to play the tackle-eligible role makes it more likely that he will get a helmet on game days, but the emergence of candidates to be the number three tight end this year may make that superfluous.
For now, Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner are projected to be the team’s starting tackles, though neither are currently fully healthy. The wild card is rookie fourth-round draft pick Dan Moore Jr., who has been playing extensively with the first-team line in Okorafor’s absence.
Any scenario could complicate Haeg’s path to playing time. If Moore can actually unseat Okorafor, or Banner for that matter, for a starting role, both of them have experience playing the tackle-eligible and could potentially dress as the swing tackle over him.
Alternatively, the coaching staff could want Moore to be the tackle eligible to make sure that they can get him on the field and gain some experience. The Steelers have been using that role to help initiate young offensive linemen for going on a decade now.
Whether he dresses or not, though, Haeg provides the Steelers some security and depth that they otherwise wouldn’t have had, following an offseason during which they lost a lot of talent out of their offensive line.